5 Reasons to Upskill Your Blue-Collar Employees

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Today the world is talking about the business case of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the transformative impact it can have on society. A diverse and inclusive work culture encourages innovation, collaboration, and creative thinking at the workplace. Research proves that it positively impacts the bottom line too. A BCG study in 2018 revealed that companies with above-average diversity scores had 19% higher revenues, driven by innovation.

Today the world is talking about the business case of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the transformative impact it can have on society. A diverse and inclusive work culture encourages innovation, collaboration, and creative thinking at the workplace. Research proves that it positively impacts the bottom line too. A BCG study in 2018 revealed that companies with above-average diversity scores had 19% higher revenues, driven by innovation.

However, diversity is only an outcome, and to enable that companies need an inclusive culture. This means a workplace where all employees can participate and contribute more. This includes blue-collar employees as well.

Education or upskilling can be seen as a great equaliser in this journey to create an equitable environment. Driving such opportunities not only creates a sense of belongingness for the blue-collar workforce but also teaches them to approach challenges strategically and innovatively. For companies, it means closing their skill gaps. Let’s look at some of other reasons why upskilling is critical for blue-collar workers in India.

1. Addressing the Talent Shortage

With the increasing number of technology platforms, start-ups, and eCommerce companies, the employability of blue-collar workers has increased exponentially. Further, with a revival of economic activities and surge in vaccination rates, demand for workers is shooting higher across sectors since 2021. However, there is a shortage of skilled workers in almost every sector, and companies are finding it difficult to address this talent gap. Over 69% of employers globally report challenges in finding skilled talent, with 72% of them belonging to the APAC region. India, in particular, is among the countries with the highest difficulty rate (79.8%) in accessing talent.

In the Indian blue-collar segment, a significant reason for this demand-supply gap has been the en masse migration of workers to their hometowns during the 2020 lockdown. Companies cannot find resources locally, with workers sceptical about further waves of the virus impacting their lives. Given these problems, upskilling and cross-skilling is important to reduce the cost of hiring. Instilling new skills in existing workers, who are already familiar with the company’s policies and procedures, can be an effective solution.

2. Building a Future-Ready Enterprise

Covid-19 has demonstrated the importance of building resilient organisations. While there have been many discussions about the advent of technology to transform workplaces, companies at the same time lack the expertise to implement drastic shifts.

Demand for skilled workers will continue to rise with the advancement in technologies like automation and robotics. Companies will have to invest in these technologies to maintain a competitive edge, and stay relevant.

These new-age roles will require a certain level of literacy in digital skills to manage intelligent workflows. There will also be the need for skilled workers to oversee operations, and maintain and repair new machines. It is up to the companies to train workers for the future. Apart from technical skills, workers will need various other skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, reasoning, creativity, collaboration, and emotional intelligence among others. According to the World Economic Forum, traditional learning will not be able to impart these critical skills to survive in the 21st century.

Going forward these skills will be extremely important, given that Covid-19 has forces global digitalisation and automation at a pace never seen before.

3.Increasing Engagement and Retention

Opening up skills training for workers of all experience levels and backgrounds promotes equality. An organization that builds an inclusive culture, finds it easy to attract and retain talent. Over 75% of workers globally want to work for organisations that make efforts to create a positive impact in society, with 90% of them belonging to India.

Training blue-collar workers, who come from low-income and often below poverty lines is indeed a step towards creating societal impact. Educational inequity is prevalent in India and rarely do these workers get opportunities for upskilling and career growth. Structured training offered by companies will not only help them to diversify their skill sets but also boost their morale and productivity.

4.Important in Driving Sustainability Initiatives 

Investors, consumers, and regulators are showing an increasing interest in company disclosures on environmental, sustainability, and governance (ESG) issues. Post-pandemic, attention to EHS (Environment, Health, and Safety) standards in industrial and commercial places will become a norm too. Given the nature of work, it will become necessary for blue-collar and gig workers to stay attuned to the latest developments.

This will require companies to conduct extensive upskilling of workers, related to important compliance policies. They will also need to establish a consistent structure to measure the performances under these programs.

5.Contributing to Economic Growth

Be it medicine, law, or engineering, Indians have excelled when it comes to technical expertise on the global stage. However, 90% of India’s workforce is in the informal sector, and as per research, they are trapped in a vicious circle. Lack of formal employment means they have no incentives to acquire new skills, and with a critical demand-supply gap in the market, companies choose to replace them with sophisticated machines. This leads to even fewer formal sector jobs for them, and no opportunities for growth.

Many workers go back to agricultural jobs in the off-season, as they lack skills that can raise their employability in the industrial or service sector. If they have the right skills, they can be absorbed into other sectors, and contribute to their households efficiently.

Upskilling initiatives thus have the power to drive economic expansion. Globally, it can lead to the creation of 5.3 million net new jobs, and in India, it can provide a 0.4% relative boost to the employment rate by 2030. Upskilling with a purpose thus leads to lowering of inequality, and it needs to start at the individual organisation level.

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